Introduction to the Reformed Lectionary

Purpose: Provide Lord’s Day scripture readings that cover most of the Bible sequentially and observe the Five Evangelical Feast Days.

1. Each Sunday provide a psalm, an Old Testament, an epistle, and a gospel reading
2. Each reading be one paragraph or logical unit: average 15 verses
3. Each reading make sense in itself but not over-tax the listeners
4. Each reading be suitable as a sermon text
5. Observe the Five Evangelical Feast Days: Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension Day, Pentecost
6. Organize the year into Six seasons: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Holy Week, Easter, Pentecost
7. Maintain lectio continua (sequential reading) as much as possible
8. Maximize flexibility and ease of use

1. In four years we will read all of the gospels and all of the psalms.
2. In eight years we will read all of the epistles and much of the Old Testament.
3. Epiphany is included because I appreciate the annual celebration of Christ’s coming for the gentiles.
4. I included particular readings for Palm Sunday because it is widely observed.
5. I included readings for each day of Holy Week.
6. I omitted Lent as a season. Reformed churches have never observed Lent, and the concept of Lent is not appreciated among Reformed churches.

Not only the preaching, but also the reading of scripture is a means of grace, and it is desirable that ample portions of scripture be read each Lord’s Day. From the days of the apostles several scripture passages were read each week. Over time this settled into a pattern of weekly Psalter, Old Testament, epistle, and gospel readings selected appropriate to the day. As the church calendar developed, an annual cycle of readings was adopted. (Churches which use a lectionary today generally use a three-year rotation of readings.) This custom is ancient and venerable, but has considerable problems. The selections are read out of context, and so the meaning can be obscured. By not reading sequentially, the broader message of each book of the Bible is not developed. This custom tends to overlook some parts of the Bible and tends to avoid difficult passages. Finally, the connection among the passages is not always obvious.

The reformers addressed these concerns by advocating lectio continua – continuous reading of the scripture. Each Sunday the pastor would continue from the point where he had stopped reading on the previous week. This has been a widespread custom among Reformed churches, and is very effective in instructing the people in the Bible and the doctrines of our faith. However, very often only one scripture is read, and sometimes a brief one, such that a wide acquaintance of scripture is neglected. Reformed churches tend to give little attention to the church calendar, which can be complicated, confusing, and distracting; but can also be very beneficial as a way of marking time during our pilgrimage on earth. (Reformed churches nevertheless observe Christmas and Easter.) The reformers discussed the use of the church calendar, with various opinions expressed. Many reformers settled on an annual observance of Five Evangelical Feast Days: Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension Day, and Pentecost – to mark the five essential acts of Christ in securing our salvation: His birth, death, resurrection, ascension, and giving the Holy Spirit. If any one of these were missing, there would be no salvation, so all should be celebrated.

I have attempted to combine the best of both approaches to weekly scripture reading. This lectionary moves through six seasons and focuses on the Evangelical Feast Days, while providing sequential readings the rest of the year. The readings for the seasons of Advent, Christmas, and Holy Week; and for the days of Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost; are particular for those seasons and days. The readings in the rest of the year are sequential. The passages are selected to be appropriate for Lord’s Day reading. It is intended that each reading be long enough to make sense by itself, but short enough to be practical for a worship service. Each reading was also constructed to be suitable as a sermon text so that the pastor may easily preach through a book based on the prescribed readings. I hope this lectionary captures the spirit and much of the practice of the Reformation and will be very useful for congregations.

This lectionary is intended to be very flexible and also very easy to use. Of course the more one elects to make adaptations, the more work will be required! The gospel and psalm selections are on a four-year cycle. The epistle selections are on an eight-year cycle. Most of the Old Testament books are on an eight-year cycle, but the longer books are ordered separately. The easiest way to use the lectionary is to use the “A” readings the first year, the “B” readings the second year, etc. But one can mix gospel, epistle, and Old Testament schedules. See “How to Use” for more detailed instructions.

The Old Testament is vast, and although “all scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable,” not all is equally profitable on all occasions. I selected what I judge to be the most significant portions of the Pentateuch, wisdom literature, and the major prophets, and most suitable for Lord’s Day reading. No doubt everyone will have his own opinion about the passages I chose, but I hope my selections are adequately profitable.

I am sure there are errors. I spent dozens of hours on this project, but a project this complex will inevitably conceal some mistakes, which I will correct as they are discovered. Feel free to bring errors to my attention.

C. David Green
Epiphany 2022